November 16, 2010
Arrived in Hong Kong to meet with my client Bill. He had his sixth of seven coaching sessions. In addition to excellent work he did in the coaching, Bill and I talked about: 1. His stepping down as Chairman of Asia; 2. The next successor taking on the role; 3. Bill’s new role as Chairman of China and what that will involve.
As often is the case, we had great conversations throughout the coaching. For example Bill reflected on his early consulting years in Boston. He has been with this firm for 27 years! He grew up here, so to speak, and got his early training in the ‘Wild West’ atmosphere of those days compared to the more systematized firm that exists today. As he reflected, he noted that today the firm is better—the processes in place for training consultants are a step forward. I could hear nostalgia for those other days however. The firm’s DNA is clearly packaged in guys like Bill who have strong roots and a long history. I talked about the new challenges that institutionalization of the brand brings—work you need to do with young consultants to spark that creativity and intuition that may be stymied in the current process. It’s not that big is bad. It’s the challenge of holding onto the pureness of the original DNA as growth happens and addressing developmental needs along the way. I mentioned the story of our coach Janice O’Rourke’s client. It’s the piece she wrote for the “In Session” section on the website.
In his new role as Chairman of China, he has some preparation. First, he will take off a few months to do a full immersion in the language. To build local clients, he has to speak their language. His current competency is basic conversation. He seems embarrassed about this. Who knows? He is a perfectionist. Maybe it’s better than he is saying. Nonetheless, he is poised to grow China. He said they need to develop leaders there. He senses that the partners in China are too junior at this point and wants to raise the bar.
For our next coaching session, we will work on his speech outlining his vision for China in his new role. I suggested we should collaborate now—so that he can begin thinking it out rather than trying to write this vision piece all at once. I will send him assignments via email—a serial development, if you will.
The overall coaching session went well. Bill has always been reluctant to bring in audience to get feedback. As a coach I know that while scary for the client, it is invaluable to catapult their growth and make the changes desired. The thing he wants—more intimacy in his communication—is the thing he is most anxious about. I pushed him to bring in audience by calling him a couple of weeks ahead of the coaching session to talk about my plan for the session. It worked. He handpicked two people who are in the finance department of the company, both Chinese and both old-timers like himself. Even though he orchestrated it and picked the individuals himself, having others in the room made a difference. He is one of those guys who can scan and almost get away with it. The biggest challenge for Bill is to stay with a person as he delivers a thought, to really see his audience. This was an excellent session for pushing him. Plus he wrote a wonderful piece about a person who had a huge impact on his life—his wife. A big surprise to me. It was well written, thoughtful and funny. Great material to work with.
At the close of the coaching I asked Bill if anyone has noticed any changes in him. He said it’s been things like people approaching him and saying they really liked the message—or really got what he was saying. Bingo. I told him I was thrilled to hear this. His speaking style is already very good so it would not be huge shifts or changes people would immediately experience. The changes would be more nuanced and subtle—and linked to creating a deeper, more intimate connection.
Next stop… Seoul.